A few weeks ago Hannah Donovan, founder of This is My Jam, wrote about her company’s move out of Shoreditch. This came as a follow-on from Cory Doctorow‘s piece about the slow death of Tech City. It’s also now been four years since the government’s announcement of the “Tech City” program and a few weeks since Gerard Grech joined Tech City as CEO. So it seems like a good time to have a conversation about the geography and nature of startups in East London.
As of late-May, Good Night Lamp will be moving out of the cocoon of Shoreditch Works into a larger, brighter space along the canal next to Haggerston Overground Station. My co-founder Daniel Fogg, whose company has setup the space, has named it Hackerston.
Location, location, location
A totally predictable (if at the time quite shocking) by-product of “Tech City” has been the ever increasing rent prices and business rates around Shoreditch. This was always going to happen and frankly the fact that a Zone 1 area used to be so cheap was never going to last. This is London after-all, one of the most expensive cities in the world where carparks sell for half a million pounds.
Back in 2007 when I moved to live in Hackney I was paying £15/sqft for space in Bethnal Green which didn’t used to be so safe but was close to home. Seven years later, I’m living in a four letter postcode, south-of-the-river, commuting in for 45 minutes every day on the Northern Line, with an office in the heart of Shoreditch that costs me more than my share of my flat, or around £37.5/sqft. I call this Tax On City Living. It’s the price you pay for living in London and there’s very little entrepreneurs can do about it.
IOT is the next tech boom
Between 2007 & 2010 my office neighbours were web developers and technology startups. Being the only person in the room who can design products started to be a bit boring. But thankfully because of a growing community of startups in the connected product / internet of things space, things have changed. For evidence of this, just look at the #iotlondon Meetup; we have over 2,700 members and our Meetups are regularly at full capacity. There aren’t many out there, but it’s just like Matt‘s map back in 2007, all you need are a few key high profile companies to start a revolution.
Tech City isn’t a postcode
The thing I’ve realised is that not unlike “punk”, there is no real definition or location to Tech City. For some it means anything east of Old Street station. For others it’s squarely the Old Street / Hoxton / Liverpool Street triangle. For a third group, it’s the Olympic park. It doesn’t matter really. The thing that needs rethinking is what we mean when we mean “Tech” with a capital T.
The Prime Minister is giving lots of support to the internet of things, and so I’d like to think this will help colour what people think when they hear Tech City in the future. All tech, hard tech, consumer tech, web, software, whatever is exciting and innovative. Silicon Valley has long ago stopped directly referring to the companies that gave it its name. The same will happen here and maybe the only thing that will end up making any sense 10 years from now, is the proximity to the City.
Haggerston here we come!
There’s lots of value in being in the same room with like-minded people who are all building things in the new world of the internet of things. So we’re looking for small teams to join us and make Hackerston a place for great people and awesome products. We’re going beyond Silicon Roundabout. It’s going to be exciting.